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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Be Fruitful and Multiply

After commenting on our dis-graceful handling of our affair with Puerto Rico I had a bit of a population ponder.

When I was old enough to crunch some numbers I learned that our planet had three billion people on it. I was told that in the living memory made voice before me it had been been one and a half billion. With just a bit more casting about for source information in the early 1970s I learned that it had been scientifically proven that the earth could sustain no more than 3.5 billion people under any circumstances.

We were doomed.

There are currently 6,971,438,775 people living on planet earth. As a whole number and per capita, fewer of them are starving than when we had three billion.

What happened?

My guess is that if you added it all up, “Science Happened”.

We’re curious little creatures. The curious monkey meme is pointedly insightful into our nature. Our ancestors have been idly rolling rocks and twigs around in their hands for millions of years. Millions of proto-humans fiddling with twigs eventually figured out how to make lunch a whole lot simpler and keep the sun out of your eyes for your nap after.

After a drowsy few eons of lunches and naps we got so good at both that we had time to be very fruitful and we multiplied. A time came when there were so many of us that we fiddled with twigs and rocks and made shared lunch and nap facilities (and supporting requirements). It wasn’t a problem, because when you have so many twig and rock twiddlers in the same place at the same time you can make a lot of lunches and take a lot of naps.

So we were fruitful and multiplied.

With a whole bunch of us in lots of shared lunch and nap centers all over the world we needed ways to get around and try all the nap and lunch varieties the world had to offer so we melted rocks and pounded them flat and made mobile lunch-nap spaces. It wasn’t really a bother, because with so many twig and melted-rock twiddlers concentrated in so many places all over the world you can have naps at 40,000′ and lunch overlooking a pool of freshwater 500 miles from shore during tempest (your drink will have a nice umbrella) and let the gentle motion rock you into a great nap.

And we are fruitful. And we multiply.

We may find in our landscaping before lunch that bleeding off  heat from some of the mucky bits like the Yellowstone Caldera and La Palma will help firm up the soil, and we that we can use that energy to heat our lunches and play soft music while we take naps. It’s no trouble, really, with so many gear-twiddlers sharing the same virtual information space equipped with ever-faster tools for figuring out how to make lunches and naps more readily available and satisfying you can deal with a lot of barbecues (mmm, ribs then a nap in a hammock).

Maybe Eastern Colorado would be all-in-all better covered with a mile-high lacework of sweeping planes and pillars that allows the sun to pierce through to parks for having lunch and cozy nap space for a hundred million people. We might decide that growing chickens and cows and cutting them apart is a terrible way to make lunch meats, that growing it in  hermetic vats allows you to get just the right flavor and consistency without all the variables and waste (not to mention how the poor cows and chickens feel about it). Maybe a couple 44,472-mile-tall cities in Kuala Lumpur and Kenya with a ring city connecting them at the 11,928,666th floors going all around the world full of crazy zero-gee parks to have lunch and naps in mid air would be fun. With so many meme fiddlers with quantum snack-and-snore gadgets jacked into broad-band pipes into their neo-cortex’s tapped into entangled holographic n-dimensional shared space you can jockey a lot of asteroids and nanoengineering in time for a really good lunch and a solid nap.

Population itself is not an arbitrary numeric barrier which marks the end of sustainable life. There are plenty of times when having enough lunches and cots available now can be a real and present issue. There is no rush to breed the next batch of mouths and backsides to deal with so don’t hesitate to think before you skip that pill or packet. We should not, however, believe we are on a treadmill to doom.

Most likely, we will be fruitful and multiply.  


  1. Rashaverak

    like the residents of the huge domed cities in Isaac Asimov’s science-fiction novel, The Caves of Steel, eating food derived from yeast grown in huge vats, assuming that we do not trigger an environmental catastrophe.

  2. creamer

     A constant refrain from the Climate Change is Fiction crowd is similar. “Even if its true (climate change) God, Mother Earth or somone smarter than myself will fix it. So I’m going to pretend its a conspiracy.”

     Im unconvinced that because past predictions of doom have proved wrong that our world and our adaptability are infinite.  

  3. It is already showing signs of doing just that. Resources shouldn’t really be a huge problem. We have a whole asteroid belt full of minerals. Food will be grown in vats some day, perhaps sooner than we think. Desalination will provide plenty of fresh water. I think the human race can solve most problems as they arise. However, I worry about having all of our eggs in one basket.  

  4. Shaun Appleby

    If killing off the elderly early is a solution you gotta admit the Republicans are ahead of the curve for once.

  5. The first is explained by a hectic recording schedule for the last two weeks and a slipped disk (contracted by trying to show off to a new female instructor in body combat): the second because I think between y’all you’ve covered both the amazing refutation of population explosion dystopias (the norm during my youth) and the resource limits of the planet.

    I’m with Chris on the optimism thing: but I also think that increased wealth and education leads to population equilibrium. I’m not sure what that is globally, but most of Europe’s populations are now stable: the increases are mainly due to immigration.

    Children are an economic resource in poorer and/or agrarian societies where manual labour is at a premium. Children are an economic cost in developed post industrial societies. Though having children is a great joy, I think personal fulfilment (especially for women) will inevitably lead to a reduction in childbirth.

    Meanwhile, I might contribute to this Moose series on sci-fi utopias and dystopias myself. I have to give a talk at the science museum tomorrow on a similar subject, and the Moose would be an ideal place to road test some ideas.  


    back in the 90’s, the population will reach 6 billion by 2050.  He was talking about the improvements in medical care in 3rd world countries.  Apparently even with birth control, longer life expectancies and reduced infant mortality will double the population.  He did say it would stabilize and begin to go down after that.

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